Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Friday virtually sounded the election bugle asking party workers to prepare themselves for the "political challenges" in the form of the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in 2014 and strengthen the hands of the top leadership.
"It is important for the party workers to be united and organised so that the political challenges can be successfully tackled. We need to strengthen the hands of our leaders (AICC president) Sonia Gandhi and (general secretary) Rahul Gandhi," Chavan said while speaking at the "Vachan Purti Melava" organised to mark the 127th foundation day of the Congress.
Highlighting the achievements of his government, Chavan said, he had focused on housing, infrastructure, health sectors and taken decisions that benefit the common man.
"My endeavour has been to ensure that housing is affordable to the common man and hence the government has made it mandatory for developers to reserve 20 per cent of their housing stock for poor people.
"Similarly, Development Control (DC) Rules have been amended for the redevelopment of slums. The Trans-Harbour Link project has gained momentum after the viability gap funding from the Centre. Similarly, 23,000 free surgeries have been performed on poor people free of cost under the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee scheme.
Touching upon the issue of crime against women, Chavan said his government was for setting up fast track courts for the trials of rape cases so that there is no pendency. Women police officials and psychologists would be appointed at every police station to deal with such cases.
"There should be toll-free numbers for women in distress. We are in talks with the Centre on these matters. Our focus will be to ensure that there is no crime against women in the state," he added.
Chavan said his government had spent Rs 900 crore for drought-relief measures so far.
He said proposed memorials for Dr B R Ambedkar, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule was to remember the state`s glorious past in social justice and equality.
"We are also celebrating the birth centenaries of former Chief Ministers Y B Chavan and Vasantrao Naik, because they stood for the ideals of social justice and equality. We as a society cannot forget our past," he added.
State Congress president Manikrao Thakre attacked ally NCP for claiming credit for the transfer of Indu mill land for Ambedkar memorial.
Naming the NCP, Thakre said, "Our ally can claim credit for the same. But people understand that it was our Chief Minister, who worked hard to pursue the matter with the Centre and work out all the nitty gritties. Our ally can work for expanding their base. We will also do the same. In the last election, our friends got more number of seats from our quota and could not win those."
In a veiled reference to the allegations of corruption against NCP leaders, Thakre said people of the state can compare the style of functioning of the chief minister and the rest.
The MPCC chief said the state Congress will celebrate the party`s foundation day on December 28 every year with such public meetings.
Thakre also dared former Chief Minister and former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi, who was in the forefront of demanding memorial for late Sena chief Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park to give land from his Kohinoor mills for the memorial.
"Joshi should provide land for the memorial if he really feels for his mentor," he added.
Actor-turned Congress MP Raj Babbar urged the party workers not to be on the defensive against allegations by the Opposition parties. "It is only the Congress which can govern this country towards growth and development," he added.
Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan stressed the need to empower the party worker so that the party grows stronger at the grass-root.
"2014 is important for us. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is taking revolutionary decisions even at the cost of continuance of government. He has the Congress party’s full backing.
In Maharashtra, we need to revive the congress. There are so many districts where our workers do not get a chance to grow politically. Hence, we need to work hard to stand on our feet alone," he added.
He claimed that the Jeevandayi scheme had revolutionised health sector in rural areas and the poor had benefited a great deal.
AICC in-charge of the state Mohan Prakash said the need of the hour was to make united efforts to change the mindset of the society so that a safe atmosphere is created for women.
Taking a dig at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, without naming him, Prakash, who handles the Congress affairs in the neighbouring state as well, said there are several chief ministers of the Congress party, who have been head of their respective states for more than two terms but the Congress has always preferred to stick to the party ideology and work for the progress of the states rather than eye bigger positions of power.
"Here, somebody has become chief minister for the third time and is eyeing the Prime Minister`s post. Virbhadra Singh has become the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh for the sixth time," he said.